The crowd at Altoona High School for the District 10 Class AAA Northwest Regional tournament will feature more Meadville Bulldog fans than years past. Last year, the Bulldogs advanced two wrestlers to the regional. This year, Meadville qualified six grapplers for the regional beginning today.
Although the fourth-place team finish and no individual champions at the District 10 tournament two weeks ago put the Bulldogs in a tough draw, head coach Barry Anderson believes his team can make some magic in the opening round.
“We have some tough matchups coming up but if there will be any kind of upset than it will be the first night,” Anderson said. “It is going to be tough with four district champions wrestling in each weight class.”
The regional will consist of District 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 with only the top three in each weight class advancing for the right at a state title in Hershey next week.
The Bulldogs will have a mixture of two freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and a senior competing.
After a two week layoff from their last competition, coach Anderson believes his team is right where they need to be when it comes down to competing.
“We had to step up a level of competition since we had a two week break,” Anderson said. “We brushed up our technique. We had a healthy room so we weren’t too concerned about that. We are right where we need to be and wrestling the way we need to be right now.”
The lone senior for the Bulldogs, Zach Luben will be making his second trip to the regional after finishing in second place at 138 pounds in the District 10 championship.
“Zach has the biggest advantage knowing what to expect,” Anderson said. “He will be ready for it.”
Luben will begin his tournament in the preliminary round with a matchup against Alex Coudriet of St. Marys.
Zach’s freshman brother, Kyle Luben, will be making is regional debut at 120 pounds against Trevor Carl of Bellefonte. Fellow freshman Ben Bish had a late switch in opponents. Before Bish was scheduled to face Blaze Buckwalter of Central Mountain. After a late dropout by one of the competitors, Bish will now face Brashear’s Stephen Granzeier.
Sophomore’s Aaron Ehrgott and Luke Carr will also be making their first trip to the regional. Ehrgott’s first bout will be against Luke Leathers of Bellefonte at 106 pounds. At 220, Carr will face Central Mountain’s Cameron Porter.
The last Bulldog to qualify for the regional was Louis Crawford. Crawford finished fourth at districts, putting him up against Bellefonte’s Nicholas Shawley.
One advantage coach Anderson sees in the first round matchups is that all of his wrestlers opponents have not gotten a chance to study them.
“It is nice that the competition hasn’t seen us yet,” Anderson said. “There is no advanced scouting. They haven’t gotten a chance to see us yet.” Some of these teams are coming for the first time so they haven’t got a chance to see what we do.”
Lancers roll into regional
If there was anything that went wrong for the General McLane wrestling team over the past two weeks is that they were not able to compete. After winning the District 10 championship and having five district individual champions, the Lancers could not wait for this weekend when they have the opportunity to get back on the mat.
“Momentum wise we are right where we need to be,” General McLane head coach Ryan Cook said. “The kids are happy and healthy for the most part and looking forward to the next challenge.”
McLane made sure they did everything in its power to stay focused over the extended break.
“We had other teams from the are come in to practice with us,” Cook said. “We get up early in the morning and drill before school. They are definitely ready to achieve their next goal.”
Their next goal will begin today when 12 Lancers will compete in the regional. The five district champions — Joe Wheeling (106), Mike Sutton (152), Tyler Hendricks (170), Chris Laird (182) and Alex Thayer (195) — lead the back with Wheeling and Hendricks receiving bye into the quarterfinals.
“They have wrestled as a team,” Cook said. “We have a lot of guys that have put themselves on that path to go to states. We have a lot of guys that are looking for a region title or a spot in the state tournament.”
Joining those five in competition for the Lancers are Hunter Hendricks, Keller Watkins, Deane Twitchell, Ken Stoll, Ossie Bowers, Jake Baker and Ian Mallory.
Hendricks will begin his tournament against Allen Saer of Jersey Shore at 113. At 126, Watkins will make another attempt at making states. Last year, Watkins fell one win shy of Hershey, losing in the consolation finals. Twitchell will be up against Tristan Paul of Shikellamy at 132 pounds.
At 138, Stoll will be paired up against Perry’s Kevon Jones. Senior Bowers will look to get into the quarterfinals with a preliminary round win over Trevaun Jackson of Westinghouse.
Coach Cook believes Baker has a good shot at making states. In his first regional, baker will start off against Carrick’s Jesse Reid.
The last Lancer wrestler to compete will be Mallory when he takes on Bradford’s Dakota Sera at 285.
Even though they will be facing kids they have not seen before, coach Cook likes his team’s chances in that scenario.
“We haven’t had a chance to see most of District 4 wrestlers,” Cook said. “I coach my kids to give their best no matter who their opponent is and that they deserve to be there no matter who their opponent is.”
Rockets headed to regionals
Most of Class AAA has been dominated by General McLane, McDowell and Cathedral Prep, but Titusville managed to sneak their way into the regionals via four wrestlers. Most notably has been Ehrin Lee. Lee finished second in the district at 160 pounds and was one win away from states last year, finishing fourth in the region at 145.
Also competing today for the Rockets is Kaleb Chase (113), Dalton Burns (132) and Tyler Nicole (195).